Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the church are too often even the subversions of the commonwealth. Thus it hath been ever since that unhappy difference between Cain and Abel : which was not concerning the bounds and limits of their inheritance, nor which of them should be heir to the whole world ; but about the dictates of religion, the offering of their sacrifices. This fire also of dissension hath been more stirred up, since the prince of peace, hath by his gospel, sent the sword amongst us : for the preaching thereof, meeting with the strong holds of Satan, and the depraved corruption of human nature, must needs occasion a great shaking of the earth. But most especially, distracted Christendom, hath found fearful issues of this discord, since the proud Romish prelates, have sought to establish their hellbroached errors, by inventing and maintaining uncharitable destructive censures against all that oppose them : which first causing schisms and distractions in the church, and then being helped forward by the blindness and cruelty of ambitious potentates, have raised war of nation agaiņst nation; witness the Spanish invasion of eighty-eight; of a people within themselves, as in the late civil wars of France, where after divers horrible massacres, many chose rather to die soldiers than martyrs.

And oh, that this truth, might not at this day, be written with the blood of almost expiring Ireland. Yea, it hath lastly descended to dissension betwixt private parties, witness the horrible murder of Diazius, whose brains were chopped out with an axe, by his own brother Alphonsus," for forsaking the Romish religion : what rents in state, what grudgings, hatreds, and exasperations of mind, among private men, have happened by reason of some inferior differences, we all at this day grieve to behold ; 'tantum religio potuit suadere malorum :' most concerning then is it for us to endeavour obedience to our Saviour's precept, of seeking first the kingdom of God, that we may

* Sleid. Com.

be

partakers of the good things comprised in the promise annexed : were there but this one argument, for to seek the peace of the church, because thereon depends the peace of the commonwealth, it were sufficient to quicken" our utmost industry for the attaining of it. Now what peace in the church without truth? all conformity to any thing else, is but the agreement of Herod and Pilate, to destroy Christ and his kingdom; neither is it this or that particular truth, but the whole counsel of God revealed unto us, without adding or detracting, whose embracement is required, to make our peace firm and stable. No halting betwixt Jehovah and Baal, Christ and Antichrist; as good be all Philistine, and worshippers of Dagon, as to speak part the language of Ashdod, and part the language of the Jews: hence hath been the rise of all our miseries, of all our dissensions, whilst factious men laboured every day to commend themselves to them, who sate aloft in the temple of God, by introducing new Popish Arminian errors, whose patronage they had wickedly undertaken. Who would have thought, that our church would ever have given entertainment to these Belgic Semipelagians, who have cast dirt upon the faces, and raked up the ashes, of all those great and pious souls, whom God magnified, in using as his instruments to reform his church; to the least of which, the whole troop of Arminians shall never make themselves equal, though they swell till they break? What benefit did ever come to this church, by attempting to prove, that the chief part, in the several degrees of our salvation, is to be ascribed unto ourselves, rather than God? which is the head and sum of all the controversies between them and us : and must not the introducing and

fomenting of a doctrine, so opposite to that truth our church hath quietly enjoyed ever since the first reformation, necessarily bring along with it schisms and dissensions, so long as any remain who love the truth, or esteem the gospel above preferment. Neither let any deceive your wisdoms, by affirming, that they are differences of an inferior nature, that are at this day agitated between the Arminians and the orthodox divines of the reformed church; be pleased but to cast an eye on the following instances, and you will find them hewing at the very root of Christianity. Consider seriously their denying of that fundamental article of original sin. Is this but a small escape in theology? why, what need of the gospel ? what need of Christ himself, if our nature be not guilty, depraved, corrupted ? Neither are many of the rest of less importance; surely these are not things, in quibus possimus dissentire salva pace ac charitate,' as Austin speaks, * about which we may differ, without loss of peace or charity. One church cannot wrap in her communion Austin and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius. I have here only given you a taste, whereby you may judge of the rest of their fruit : mors in olla, mors in olla ;' their doctrine of the final apostacy of the elect, of true believers, of a wavering hesitancy concerning our present grace and future glory, with divers others, I have wholly omitted: those I have produced, are enough to make their abettors incapable of our church communion : the sacred bond of peace, compasseth only the unity of that Spirit which leadeth into all truth. We must not offer the right hand of fellowship, but rather proclaim ispov módeuov," "a holy war,' to such enemies of God's providence, Christ's merit, and the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit: neither let any object, that all the Arminians do not openly profess all these errors I have recounted ; let ours then shew wherein they differ from their masters ;' we see their own confessions, we know their arts, Báon kai uedoceias tou satavā, the depths and crafts of Satan,' we know the several ways they have to introduce and insinuate their heterodoxies into the minds of men : with some they appear only to dislike our doctrine of reprobation; with others to claim an allowable liberty of the will; but yet, for the most part, like the serpent, wherever she gets in her head, she will wriggle in her whole body, sting and all ; give but the least admission, and the whole poison must be swallowed. What was the intention of the maintainers of these strange assertions amongst us, I know not: whether the efficacy of error prevailed really with them or no; or whether it were the better to comply with Popery, and thereby to draw us back again unto Egypt; but this I have heard, that it was affirmed on knowledge in a former parliament, that the introduction of Arminianism amongst us, was the issue of a Spanish consultation. It is a strange story that learned Zanchiusa tells us, how upon the death of the cardinal of Lorrain there was found in his study a pote, of the names of divers German doctors and ministers, being Lutherans, to whom was paid an annual pension, by the assignment of the cardinal, that they might take pains to oppose the Calvinists, and so by cherishing dissension, reduce the people again to Popery. If there be any such amongst us, who upon such poor inconsiderable motives, would be won to betray the gospel of Christ, God grant them repentance before it be too late ; however, upon what grounds, with what intentions, for what ends soever, these tares have been sowed amongst us by envious men, the hope of all the piously learned in the kingdom is, that by your effectual care and diligence, some means may be found to root them out. Now God Almighty increase and fill your whole honourable society, with wisdom, zeal, knowledge, and all other Christian graces, necessary for your great calling and employments, which is the daily prayer of

6 Greg. Naz.

c Profitentur Remonst. hasce ad promotionem causæ suæ artes adhibere, ut apad vulgus non ulterius progrediantur quam de articulis vulgo notis, ut pro ingeniorum diversitate quosdain lacte diu alant, aliis solidiore cibo, &c. Festus Hom. præstat ad specimen Con. Bel.

d Hieron. Zanch. ad Holderum. Res. Miscel.

Your most humble and

devoted servant,

JOHN OWEN.

« PreviousContinue »